Matsu Islands

From Academic Kids

The Matsu Islands (馬祖列島 or less frequently, 馬祖群島 Pinyin: Mǎzǔ) are a minor archipelago of 19 islands and islets in the Taiwan Strait administered as Lienchiang County (連江 Pinyin: Liánjiāng), Fukien Province of the Republic of China (ROC, now based on Taiwan). Not all of what is historically part of Lienchiang county is under the control of the ROC. The People's Republic of China controls the part of the county adjoining the mainland and has a separate administration for that jurisdiction, Lianjiang County, which claims the entire archipelago to be its Mazu Township (妈祖乡).

Lienchiang County

Lienchiang County emblem

Abbreviation: Matsu (馬祖)

CapitalNangan Township
Region Eastern Fujian
County magistrateChen Hsueh-sheng(陳雪生)


Ranked 25 of 25

 - Total
 - % water

29.6055 km²¹
(Percent water goes here)%


Ranked 25 of 25

 - Total
(May 2004)
 - Density


Cities: 0
County flower:Hairy Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea glabra)
County tree:(County tree goes here)
County bird:Chinese Crested Tern
(Sterna bernsteini)
(1) old measures: 28.8km²
Missing image

They are named after the goddess Matsu. Quemoy is the other island on the Fujian coast controlled by the ROC.



Fujianese Mainlanders started migrating to the islands in the Yuan Dynasty. Most people on Matsu came from Houguan (侯官) (today Changle County (長樂縣), Fujian).

Some crewmen of Zheng He temporarily stayed on the islands. In early Qing Dynasty, pirates gathered here and residents temporarily left.

As part of Fukien, Matsu Islands were not colonised by Japan, as the island of Taiwan and the Pescadores did.

After the Nationalists retreated to Taiwan in 1949, the ROC retained the part of Lienchiang County offshore (and the entire Kinmen County as well). The common Romanization used in the ROC is Wade-Giles (Lienchiang) while the PRC uses pinyin (Lianjiang). However, the name is the same in Chinese.

The phrase "Quemoy and Matsu" became part of U.S. politics in the 1960 Presidential election. During the debates, both candidates, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy pledged to use U.S. force if necessary to protect the Republic of China from invasion from the mainland, the People's Republic of China, which the U.S. did not at that time recognize as a legitimate government. Vice-President Nixon charged that Senator Kennedy would not use U.S. force to protect Taiwan's forward positions, Quemoy and Matsu.

In April 2003, the county government started considering changing the name to Matsu County to avoid confusion with the county of the same name on the mainland. This is the first example of a local government officially wishing to change its name.


Lienchiang County (of the ROC) is currently divided into four townships:

  • Nangan Township (南竿鄉 Nángān) "Southern Fishing Pole"
  • Beigan Township (北竿鄉 Běigān) "Northern Fishing Pole"
  • Jyuguang Township (莒光鄉 Jǔguāng) "Brilliance of the Ju Kingdom"
  • Dongyin Township (東引鄉 Dōngyǐn) "Welcoming the East"

Altogether, there are 22 Lienchiang villages, which are further divided into 137 neighborhoods (鄰 lín).

All townships, except Jyuguang, are named after the largest island in its jurisdictional area, but most townships also include other islets.


The Matsu Islands include five major islands: Nangan, Dongjyu and Sijyu (both in Jyuguang Township), Beigan, and Dongyin. Minor islands include Liang (亮島), Gaodeng (高登), Daciou (大坵), and Siaociou (小坵) -- all belong to the Peikan Township.

  • North: 26º18' N
  • South: 25º56' N
  • East: 120º1'20" E
  • West: 119º51' E

Another set of coordinates: 119°51'-120°31' E, 25°55'-26°44' N.

Dongyin is the northernmost and Dongjyu is the southernmost.


  • Nangan: 10.43 km²
  • Beigan: 8.86 km²
  • Dongyin: 4.35 km²
  • Jyuguang islands: see Jyuguang

Average annual temperature is 8.9°, with the lowest point being 1.3°.


The language spoken by Matsu residents is the Ping language (平話), a dialect of Northern Fujianese.

Chen (陳) is the most common surname, then Lin (林), Wang (王), Cao (曹), and Liu (劉).

Several islands are not inhabited permanently, some of which are stationed by ROC soldiers.


Farm products include rice, sugar cane, tea plant, orange. Sea animals, such as fish, clams, and jellyfish, are also popular exports.

Natural reserves

Since 1990, the county controls the Matsu Islands Bird Sanctuary (馬祖列島燕鷗保護區), which spreads across eight islands and islets in Nangan, Beigan and Tongyin Townships. It contains 30 species in 15 orders, mostly gulls and terns. In 2000, four pairs of the critically endangered Chinese Crested Tern, previously thought to be extinct, were discovered nesting on the Matsu Islands, giving them global conservation importance.

There are also mosses and ferns rare or absent on Mainland China and Taiwan.

Connection to the goddess

Matsu, though named after the goddess Matsu, is written with a different character that has a different tone. But the Matsu Islands are not the birthplace of the goddess as the human Lin Muoniang -- Meizhou Island is -- but her death place (on a seaport named after her on Nangan Island).

The Matsu Nangan Heavenly Empress Palace (馬祖南竿天后宮), a temple dedicated to the goddess, contains the sarcophagus of Lin Muoniang. It is, however, not as popular as the Meizhou temple.

Most Taiwanese pilgrims to Meizhou start off their journey in Matsu Islands because they are the closest ROC-controlled base to Meizhou, which is controlled by the PRC.

See also: Political divisions of the Republic of China

External links


pl:Matsu zh:馬祖 zh-min-nan:Má-chó·-tó


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